Behind every good cheerleading squad is a great cheer coach! A good coach is always learning and looking for new ideas and ways to help her or his team improve. But even experienced coaches make these common mistakes sometimes:
- “Winging” practices. Have a plan! Don’t just show up to practice and then start coming up with things to do to fill the time. If you coach a younger squad, have some drills and activities planned. You can always stray from the script, but having that outline will keep you organized and ensure you aren’t wasting practice time. If you coach a more experienced squad, plan your practices intentionally, being sure to include what you need to work on in order to reach your team goals.
- Neglecting parent communication. A coach is a significant person in a young athlete’s life. Parents want to know you! Whether you hold a parents’ meeting at the beginning of the season or make time at games and other cheer events to chat with parents, make sure parents feel like they know you. Aside from communicating the basic necessities like practice and game details, talk to parents about what their athletes are working on and what they have accomplished. Communicating well with parents is a good way to ensure a great season.
- Doing too much. Delegate! Ask for parent volunteers for things like organizing travel, helping with fundraisers, or gathering information and collecting payment for team orders. Give your team leaders responsibilities wherever you can. You can put your captains in charge of leading the team warmup, teaching cheers to new team members, or helping you pick out new uniforms. Even though you can do all these things yourself, your time and efforts are better spent elsewhere. Plus, many parents want to be as involved as they can and delegating some tasks to your cheerleaders teaches them responsibility and shows them you trust them.
- Failing to foster leadership. This is how you become a successful program, not just a good team. A squad with solid leadership becomes a cheerleading powerhouse because you don’t just have a good team every few years—you’re consistently among the best. This happens by instilling a team culture of hard work and commitment, which is something that is passed down from class to class that comes through your squad. A coach makes this happen by choosing and managing leaders.
- Being unbalanced. You can’t be a drill sergeant 100 percent of the time, but you can’t just treat the season as one big party either. For athletes who love cheerleading, working hard at cheer is fun. To ensure you are pushing your team, getting better, and enjoying yourselves, pay attention to team morale. Talk to your captains and other team leaders to get a feel for how the athletes are doing. You can always plan a fun event when your team needs to get out of the gym for a few hours, but you should also be planning your practices around what your team enjoys as much as you can.
What lessons have you learned from your time coaching?